, Gloucester, MA

May 7, 2013

Empty Bowl benefit carries message

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Julie LaFontaine, executive director of the Gloucester-based Open Door food pantry and human services agency, says she expects to have more than 1,000 individually crafted and decorated bowls on hand for Thursday night’s 13th annual Empty Bowl fund-raising dinner.

But LaFontaine said Monday it’s important for all who attend to remember that the bowls are not merely souvenirs — even though the diners are invited to take them home.

“They’re meant as reminders that, somewhere, someone’s bowl is empty,” she said. “So while we have a good time getting together, admiring the bowls, eating from them — all coming together for a community event — it’s important to remember that The Open Door served one in six Gloucester families last year. And food is the most basic of needs.”

That indeed is the message of what has become one of Gloucester’s and Cape Ann’s most popular fund-raisers, with this year’s edition planned for Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Cruiseport Gloucester.

Tickets are priced at $15 — $10 for children under 10 — and will be available at the door, via cash, check or charge. Extra parking for the event is also available at Good Harbor Beach, LaFontaine said, with regular trolley service provided by the Cape Ann Transportation Authority to and from the Cruiseport site. For more information call, 978-283-6776, or visit

The meal is simple — soup, bread and a cookie — LaFontaine noted. But the guests can choose and keep a soup bowl handcrafted for this community event by a range of artists ages 5 to 95, she said. Over recent months, there have been bowl-painting parties and projects in area schools, in senior centers, and at facilities like the Cape Ann Art Haven in downtown Gloucester.

Money raised from the dinner will go to fund The Open Door’s summer lunch programs, extended to school children during the months when they cannot and do not get lunches in school. The money also goes toward The Open Door’s “mobile markets,” off-site food programs that offer fresh fruits and vegetables based in four local public housing facilities, Veterans’ Memorial School and at Pathways for Children, based virtually across the street from The Open Door’s headquarters on Emerson Avenue.

LaFontaine said that last year’s event, which drew more than 800 people, raised roughly $30,000 — “and we’re looking to beat that,” she said. “I feel we have to beat that, because the need is hardly going down, or going away.”

That dollar figure didn’t come solely from the dining bowls. The Empty Bowl dinner also now includes a silent auction, with 25 items, including specially crafted bowls, available for bidding Thursday night, LaFontaine said.

Among the auction bowls will be several created by local elected officials, LaFontaine noted, including one fired by Gloucester City Councilor and cook extraordinaire Sefati Romeo Theken, whose bowl states that, “In the Godmother’s kitchen, no one is hungry.”

Another, painted by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, features three seagulls flying past Blackburn Industrial Park’s three giant turbines. “It’s as if they’re saying, ‘So, you’re the new guys,’” LaFontaine said.

Other auction bowls and other items were crafted by a variety of local artists.

“They’re beautiful, and this is a wonderful community event that brings so many people together,” LaFontaine added. “But it’s important that we remember the message, too – that are a lot of empty bowls that need to be filled.”